Cleaning Waste in the Brain May Lead to Better Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease


The journal Nature Aging recently published Prof. Allen Tannenbaum’s research with a Yale University-led team which highlights new discoveries related to Alzheimer’s Disease.

Tannenbaum, a professor in the Departments of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics & Statistics at Stony Brook University, is working with Dr. Helene Beveniste’s team at Yale along with Dr. William Van Nostrand from the University of Rhode Island’s George & Ann Ryan Institute for Neuroscience.

The collaborative research focuses on two factors that may contribute to the cause of cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA), a common disease associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, which can lead to loss of memory, brain hemorrhage, and cognitive decline. 

CAA results from the failure of poor waste management in the brain when waste can’t be excreted. Yale PI Helen Beneviste says a main culprit in CAA may be an “abnormal re-routing of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) away from the brain’s glymphatic system. CSF normally flushes through the glymphatic system as a handy trash removal service.”

Although effective treatment for this condition has not yet been developed, Tannenbaum and his colleagues developed and performed MRI imaging techniques to study the two systems in the body, glymphatic and lymphatic, responsible for cleaning waste in the brain.  When CAA is present, the fluid that cleans up the waste cannot go through glymphatic channels, and thus the waste will build up in the brain. Lymphatic drainage becomes dysfunctional as well when CAA is present. The Stony Brook team developed the underlying mathematics based on optimal mass transport theory, to effectively study the fluid flow through the brain.

According to the Nature Aging article, “in CAA, both glymphatic transport and lymphatic drainage are compromised and that both systems represent therapeutic targets for treatment of CAA-related cognitive decline and dementia.” The findings may help future researchers to discover possible treatments options for CAA so that a normal fluid passage can be recovered and a clean and healthy brain is maintained that prevents the disease.

Co-first authors of the study are Xinan Chen of Stony Brook and Xiaodan Liu of Yale. The research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging and the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.


-Jiaming He